Curcuminoids are the compounds responsible for the bright yellow pigment of the spice turmeric (curcuma longa). A key ingredient of Asian dishes, turmeric root has long been used in Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine to treat all manner of ailments. Interest in turmeric’s supposed role in the reduced incidence of ‘western’ diseases originated in India, where consumption routinely exceeds several grams per day, simply through the addition of the spice to commonly consumed foods.
Curcumin is the most potent and biologically active component of the yellow spice, turmeric.
Curcuminoids make up 2-8% of turmeric and are considered the ‘biologically active’ components of the spice. Comprising 75% of the total curcuminoid content, curcumin is the most potent. Thanks to a boom in turmeric research over the last few decades, the mechanisms behind its purported health benefits are becoming increasingly clear; scientists have discovered that curcumin, specifically, is responsible for most of the health benefits associated with its consumption. Research has also led to the quite surprising discovery that less than 1% of curcumin consumed via turmeric is actually absorbed from the gut into the blood and the little that is, is rapidly broken down and excreted. It’s no wonder, then, that turmeric in its whole spice form is only linked to health benefits in countries where dishes containing large doses of turmeric are consumed several times daily. In order to harness the power of curcumin on a more realistic scale, recent research has focused on finding ways to improve curcumin’s absorption and keep it in active form in the body for as long as possible.
Consuming 1 gram of turmeric in natural spice form only delivers 37.5mg curcumin. In order to reap curcumin’s benefits, taking a bioavailable supplement is therefore a smart choice.
Issues with curcumin absorption and bioavailability
When it comes to researching or optimising curcumin’s benefits in the body, the first hurdle to overcome is its extremely poor absorption. Curcumin is a lipophilic (water-hating) compound, meaning it is totally insoluble in water, and therefore unable to pass through the thin water layer barrier that lines the insides of the gut. The majority of ingested curcumin (whether from food or supplements) simply remains in the gut in the same, unchanged form. This renders your curcumin largely ineffective, as almost all of what you have consumed is literally flushed down the toilet.
Standard curcumin is absorbed poorly from the gut into the bloodstream.
The second problem we face is that any curcumin that is absorbed, is rapidly converted by gut and liver enzymes into its break-down products, tetrahydrocurcumin (THC) and hexahydrocurcumin (HHC) via processes known as glucuronidation and sulfation. This is the same mechanism by which the body eliminates undesirable products such as toxins and drugs. The process of taking an active insoluble molecule and converting it into an inactive highly soluble molecule allows it to be effectively eliminated by the kidneys in the urine. While this is beneficial in terms of detoxification, it is not beneficial for keeping curcumin active in the body. Not only are curcumin breakdown products too big to cross delicate membranes, such as the blood-brain barrier, they are also swiftly picked up by the kidneys and excreted via the urine. Therefore we can see that keeping curcumin in its active form is challenging, with studies into the bioavailability of standard curcumin only able to detect minimal blood levels (<1ng/ml) an hour after ingestion, and none within just a few hours.
In those countries where 2-3 grams of turmeric (providing ~100mg of curcumin), are regularly consumed with each meal, the poor uptake and distribution of curcumin may not be such an issue but the rest of us need to find a way to optimise this. Thanks to some innovative companies there are now many ‘optimised’ curcumin solutions on the market with significantly improved bioavailability.
Any standard curcumin that is absorbed is rapidly broken down and excreted. The half-life of standard curcumin is ~1 minute.
Optimising curcumin’s bioavailability
The first barrier to overcome is the poor uptake of curcumin from the gut. A delivery vehicle is needed that meets three requirements:
- solubility (to make curcumin water-soluble),
- permeability (to enable curcumin to enter gut cells)
- stability (to protect curcumin from the harsh stomach environment and to prevent curcumin from being broken down by enzymes)
Longvida® Optimised Curcumin uses Solid Lipid Curcumin Particle technology (SLCP) which meets all of these needs.
Longvida® Optimised Curcumin makes curcumin water-soluble, protects it from the harsh stomach environment, enables it to enter gut cells and keeps it stable in the body in an active form. This results in 285x greater bioavailability and 65x higher peak plasma levels.
Firstly, SLCP protects the free-form curcumin from contact with the harsh acidic environment of the stomach. The SLCP also makes curcumin water-soluble so that it passes easily across the water-barrier lining the gut cells, thereby optimising its uptake from the intestines.
In addition, SLCP allows the absorbed curcumin to become ‘packaged’ into chylomicrons (special carrier molecules) in the cells of the intestine. Standard curcumin gets absorbed from gut cells into the bloodstream, where it rapidly reaches the liver and gets broken down. Curcumin enclosed in chylomicrons, however, gets absorbed directly into the lymphatic system, effectively bypassing the liver before entering the bloodstream. This means that active curcumin reaches the cells of the body, including crossing the blood-brain barrier, without being broken down by liver enzymes.
SLCP also acts to retain active curcumin in the body, as shown by its exceptionally long half-life (the time at which half of the absorbed amount is cleared from the bloodstream). Indeed, with a half-life of over 7 hours, Longvida® Optimised Curcumin is one of the only delivery forms to stabilise free-form curcumin in the bloodstream meaning extended action with just a single small daily 100 mg capsule. Longvida® is also the only form of curcumin known to cross the blood-brain barrier. In delivering and retaining active free-form curcumin, Longvida® Optimised Curcumin is the most effective curcumin product on the market and the ideal solution to obtaining adequate levels without the mega-dosing normally required with standard curcumin.
Longvida® Optimised Curcumin has an unprecedented half-life of over 7 hours and is the only form of curcumin known to cross the blood-brain barrier.
Gota VS, Maru GB, Soni TG, Gandhi TR, Kochar N, Agarwal MG. Safety and pharmacokinetics of a solid lipid curcumin particle formulation in osteosarcoma patients and healthy volunteers. J Agric Food Chem. 2010 Feb 24;58(4):2095-9.